24 July 2016

Review: MISSING PRESUMED, Susie Steiner

  • this edition, Borough Press, Harper Collins Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-00-812329-1
  • 404 pages 
Synopsis (author website)

A young woman vanishes. A smear of blood in the kitchen of the house she shares with her boyfriend suggests a struggle...

As soon as Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw sees the photograph of missing Edith Hind - a beautiful Cambridge post-grad from a well-connected family - she knows the case will be big. And she's right: pressure soon mounts from the media and from on high.Can Manon see clearly enough to solve the mystery of Edith's disappearance? Can she withstand intimidation from Sir Ian Hind, Edith's father, who has friends in high places? And when a body is found, will it mean the end or just the beginning?

My Take

The focus of the story is the disappearance, just before Christmas, of a young woman, Edith Hind, whose father is physician to the Queen, and therefore needs to be treated with kid gloves.  A blood spatter on the kitchen floor seems to indicate possible foul play but as the hours pass there is no trace of her and no indication of what may have happened.

The second thread of the plot is DS Manon Bradshaw who, in her late thirties, is trying to stave off the ticking of her biological clock through Internet dating. Then she thinks she has met the love of her life.

In many ways this is a standard police procedural. The police are meticulous in their tracing of Edith's last known movements, checking various CCTV camera footages, and investigating the movements of her flat mate and various friends and family members.

The plot is developed from several points of view: chapters are variously headed Manon, Davy (Manon's offsider), and Miriam (Edith's mother).  Time ticks on, the crucial first 72 hours pass, a body is found, not Edith's, but it is not sure whether it is connected to the original one. 

The eventual story behind Edith's disappearance is ingenuous but I didn't find it all that plausible. Quite a few secrets are revealed and we see a side of Manon that was unexpected.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Susie Steiner is a novelist and freelance journalist. She was a staff writer and editor on the Guardian for 11 years, specialising in lifestyle features.  MISSING PRESUMED is her second novel.

14 July 2016

Review: THE CHOSEN, Kristina Ohlsson

  • first published in Swedish 2013
  • translated by Marlaine Delargy
  • this edition published by Simon & Schuster 2015
  • ISBN 978-1-4711-4879-8
  • 584 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #5 in the Fredrika Bergman series
Synopsis (publisher)
.. a tense, atmospheric mystery featuring an enigmatic killer rooted in folklore.

On a cold winter’s day, a pre-school teacher is shot to death in front of parents and children at the Jewish Congregation in Stockholm. Just a few hours later, two Jewish boys go missing on their way to tennis practice, and an unexpected blizzard destroys any trace of the perpetrator.

Investigative analyst Fredrika Bergman and police superintendent Alex Recht face their toughest challenge ever on the hunt for a killer as merciless as he is effective. As they struggle to pin down a lead, someone or something called the Paper Boy—a mysterious old Israeli legend of a nighttime killer—keeps popping up in the police investigation. But who was the Paper Boy really? And how could he have resurfaced in Stockholm? It is up to Fredrika to track down the elusive murderer before he claims his next victim.

My Take

This novel story is one of those you can't say too much about in the review without revealing significant bits of the plot.

It is #5 in a series featuring Fredrika Bergman but I haven't read earlier titles. I gather Fredrika is returning to work after an absence and her colleague Alex Recht is constantly worried that he is asking too much of her. Fredrika's talent is that she can connect the dots of a trail in a different way to most of her colleagues - she can envisage different scenarios for them to consider. It is this talent which makes her most useful in an investigation team. She can see connections where others see none.

The main story is set in 2012. Among the threads which merge together are why the families of the missing boys emigrated to Sweden from Israel 10 years earlier, involvement by Mossad, MI5 and Sapo, what happened on the West Bank ten years earlier, and secrets.

The structure of the book is designed to keep you reading because almost from the beginning we are told part of the ending. The characters in these segments are not named and so working out who they are is part of the "hook".

A good suspenseful read.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Kristina Ohlsson is a political scientist who has previously worked for the Swedish Security Service and as a Counter-Terrorism Officer at OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Unwanted, Silenced, and The Disappeared are the first three books in her crime series featuring Fredrika Bergman. She now lives in Stockholm, where she works full-time as a writer.

10 July 2016

Review: SATELLITE PEOPLE, Hans Olav Lahlum

  • first published in 2015 (Pan Macmillan)
  • ISBN 978-1-4472-6026-4
  • source: my local library
  • translated from Norwegian by Kari Dixon,
  • 371 pages
  • #2 in the K2 series
Synopsis (publisher)

A gripping, evocative and ingenious mystery which pays homage to Agatha Christie, Satellite People is the second Norwegian mystery in Hans Olav Lahlum's series.

Oslo, 1969. When a wealthy man collapses and dies during a dinner party, Norwegian Police Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen, known as K2, is left shaken. For the victim, Magdalon Schelderup, a multimillionaire businessman and former resistance fighter, had contacted him only the day before, fearing for his life.

It soon becomes clear that every one of Schelderup's ten dinner guests is a suspect in the case. The businessman was disliked, even despised, by many of those close to him; and his recently revised will may have set events in motion. But which of the guests - from his current and former wives and three children to his attractive secretary and old cohorts in the resistance - had the greatest motive for murder?

With the inestimable help of Patricia - a brilliant, acerbic young woman who lives an isolated life at home, in her wheelchair - K2 begins to untangle the lies and deceit within each of the guests' testimonies. But as the investigators receive one mysterious letter after another warning of further deaths, K2 realises he must race to uncover the killer. Before they strike again . . .
 
My Take

The author says this novel is a tribute to Agatha Christie and in fact mentions a number of Golden Age writers.  In terms of plot SATELLITE PEOPLE plays with elements from AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS amongst other Christie plots.

This is the second in a series featuring Detective inspector Kolbjorn Kristaiansen (known as K2) and his precocious young wheelchair bound consultant Patricia. There are constant reminders about how successful they were in their first case and indeed the two cases are compared a number of times, which I found a tad annoying as I have not read the first one.

K2 does the practical investigation during the day and then reports to Patricia every evening for her analysis of his findings. He is frequently bewildered by her questions and conclusions and she invariably sends him away with another line of questioning. K2 finds himself getting quite close to memebers of the victim's family.

An interesting read because the style is a little different to British/Australian crime fiction.

My Rating : 4.4

About the author
Hans Olav Lahlum is a Norwegian crime author, historian, chess player and politician. The books that make up his crime trilogy, featuring Criminal Investigator Kolbjørn Kristiansen (known as K2) and his precocious young assistant Patricia, are bestsellers in Norway.

DI Kolbjorn Kristiansen
1. The Human Flies (2014)
2. Satellite People (2015)
3. The Catalyst Killing (2015)
4. Chameleon People (2016)

4 July 2016

Review: WEEKEND WITH DEATH, Patricia Wentworth

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • first published 1941, titled UNLAWFUL OCCASIONS
  • Republished 2016
  • review copy provided by Dean Street Press
  • File Size: 1194 KB
  • Print Length: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Dean Street Press (June 16, 2016)
  • Publication Date: June 16, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01H7J6KFU
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

She held the candle steady and, stooping, touched the smeared patch with the tip of her finger.

The stain was blood.

When Sarah Marlowe, secretary to the president of the New Psychical Society, touches the cold, strange object in her hand-bag, she thinks at first it is a snake. As things turn out, it is almost as dangerous.
Her travelling acquaintance, Emily Case, has been murdered by someone who won’t hesitate to kill again to obtain the contents of Sarah’s bag. Unwilling to join the spirit world herself, Sarah enlists the aid of a handsome if not entirely trustworthy stranger, John Wickham. Together they must scrabble to solve the mystery—and outwit a murderer.

Weekend with Death was originally published in 1941. This new edition features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.

My Take

WEEKEND OF DEATH is a novel of it's time, set during World War II. Note it is NOT a Miss Silver novel.

It is a novel of almost Gothic overtones, set in a run down English country house that has no electricity or running water. Sarah Marlowe goes there for the weekend with her employer, Wilson Cattermole and his eccentic sister Joanna, in pursuit of ghostly emanations.

Sarah finds herself with people who are prepared to murder for the papers she is carrying. In fact she knows that at least one person, the woman who gave them to her in a train station two nights earlier, has already died and she is not sure who in the house she can trust.

Like many Golden Age stories this is a tale full of coincidences which the reader just has to accept as "normal".  Sarah Marlowe is one of those young women who don't like being told what to do, and constantly gives in to curiosity.

My Rating: 4.2

I've also read
4.1, GREY MASK
4.4, THE TRAVELLER'S RETURN

About the Author

Patricia Wentworth (1878–1961) was one of the masters of classic English mystery writing. Born in India as Dora Amy Elles, she began writing after the death of her first husband, publishing her first novel in 1910. In the 1920s, she introduced the character who would make her famous: Miss Maud Silver, the former governess whose stout figure, fondness for Tennyson, and passion for knitting served to disguise a keen intellect. Along with Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Miss Silver is the definitive embodiment of the English style of cozy mysteries.

3 July 2016

New to me authors: April to June 2016

I have read 71 books so far this year and 36 of them have been by new-to-me authors.
In this last quarter that makes 16 of them.
The quality varies but they were certainly all readable.
  1. 4.5, SIX FOUR, Hideo Yokoyama 
  2. 3.7, MYSTERY IN WHITE, J. Jefferson Farjeon 
  3. 4.6, A FEW OF THE GIRLS, Maeve Binchy 
  4. 4.5, PROHIBITED ZONE, Alastair Sarre 
  5. 4.5, A DARK AND TWISTED TIDE, Sharon Bolton 
  6. 4.2, DYING FOR A TASTE, Leslie Karst 
  7. 4.2, COMFORT ZONE, Lindsay Tanner 
  8. 4.2, THE BUNGALOW MURDER, Annie Haynes 
  9. 4.3, DADDY DEAREST, Paul Southern
  10. 3.9, FRONT PAGE NEWS, Katie Rowney 
  11. 4.7, THE TRAP, Melanie Raabe
  12. 4.8, AN ISOLATED INCIDENT, Emily Maguire 
  13. 4.1, TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX, Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen 
  14. 4.7, THE DRY, Jane Harper
  15. 4.2, THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG, Muriel Barbery  
  16. 4.5, THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost, Daniel Allen Butler
Suggestions for new authors come sometimes from the authors themselves, offering a review copy of their book, but also from friends, book groups, and reviews.

I should also point out that I also often continue to follow new offerings by new-to-me authors.

See who others have discovered this quarter.


Review: THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost- audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

After every disaster, someone has something to hide....

A few minutes before midnight on April 14, 1912, the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage to New York, struck an iceberg. Less than three hours later she lay at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. While the world has remained fascinated by the tragedy, the most amazing drama of those fateful hours was not played out aboard the doomed liner.

It took place on the decks of two other ships, one 58 miles distant from the sinking Titanic, the other barely 10 miles away. The masters of the steamships Carpathia and Californian, Captain Arthur Rostron and Captain Stanley Lord, were informed within minutes of each other that their vessels had picked up the distress signals of a sinking ship. Their actions in the hours and days that followed would become the stuff of legend, as one would choose to take his ship into dangerous waters to answer the call for help, while the other would decide that the hazard to himself and his command was too great to risk responding.

After years of research, Daniel Allen Butler now tells this incredible story, moving from ship to ship on the icy waters of the North Atlantic - in real time - to recount how hundreds of people could have been rescued, but in the end only a few outside of the meager lifeboats were saved. He then looks alike at the U.S. Senate investigation in Washington, and ultimately the British Board of Trade inquiry in London, where the actions of each captain are probed, questioned, and judged, until the truth of what actually happened aboard the Titanic, the Carpathia and the Californian is revealed.

My Take

This is part of my attempt to read a little more than crime fiction: so this is history and non crime fiction.

It is a very compelling account of what happened on the night of April 14/15 1912, when the unsinkable Titanic sank. It is strongly read, although there are passage that I suspect in the book were accompanied by maps and charts, and so the technical details would have been clearer. Nevertheless the account is very clear, almost vindictive, not just an account of what happened but an attempt to explain why it happened.

Like both the official inquiries, the author concludes that Captain Smith of the Titanic was not sufficiently cautious given that he was entering an ice field, and therefore must take some of the blame for the loss of life. The inadequacy of the life boat provision was a major cause of loss of life, plus the fact that the Titanic sent some boats off only half full, and the fact that they had no clear life boat drill, because of course the Titanic was assumed to be unsinkable.  He concludes that the Carpathia was just too far away to get there in time, but that the Californian, though closer, could not have got there in time to pick up all the Titanic's passengers. Nevertheless he claims that a further 300 lives could have been saved.

The loss of the Titanic resulted in considerable changes in safety regulations particularly in relation to provision of life boats, 24 hr radio watches, and clarification of distress signals.

The arguments are well presented and well supported. Makes very interesting reading.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Daniel Allen Butler, a maritime and military historian, is the best-selling author of "Unsinkable": The Full Story of RMS Titanic, Distant Victory: The Battle of Jutland and the Allied Triumph in the First World War, and The First Jihad: The Battle for Khartoum and the Dawn of Militant Islam. He is an internationally recognized authority on maritime subjects and a popular guest-speaker for several cruise lines. Butler lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

Review: LOST GIRLS, Angela Marsons

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2782 KB
  • Print Length: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Bookouture (November 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 6, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01408LTV6
  • #3 in the Kim Stone series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Two girls go missing. Only one will return.

The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die.

When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping.

And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stone and the squad.

Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realises that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour...

Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families' past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone's child pay the ultimate price?

The latest utterly addictive thriller from the No.1 bestseller Angela Marsons.

A detective hiding dark secrets, Kim Stone will stop at nothing to protect the innocent.

My Take

This is the third in the Kim Stone series and really is very compelling reading.It revolves around the worst scenario any parent can imagine, the abduction of a child, but two friends have been abducted, and then the kidnapper pits the parents against each other in a macabre auction to secure the return of their individual child.

Kim Stone initially is not to head the investigation but her participation is requested by one of the parents who shares part of her past. Kim's boss lets her know that her management is under close scrutiny and she is under great pressure from him to deliver. But that pressure is really nothing in comparison to the pressure puts herself under. As the days go on Kim becomes convinced that there is something they have missed.

Excellent reading.

My Rating: 4.7
  
I've also read
4.7, SILENT SCREAM
4.8, EVIL GAMES

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